5 Quick Vocal Warmups for Actors

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Lights, camera, action, “croak”? No one should start a scene or character study without preparing their voice. It’s as important to work hard on getting your vocals in shape as it is your abs. Vocal warmups can give you the strength and range to be heard, express a wide variety of emotions, and play characters with different pitches and accents. Actor, director, and teacher Page Clements offers these tips to help get—and keep—your voice in shape.

Warm up to the commitment 

“If you’re going to be an actor, you have to be a vocal athlete. One six-week vocal course isn’t going to cut it. I recommend a minimum of 30 minutes, three times a week. These exercises will help you work on breath control, find the connections between your voice and body, explore your range and pitch, and find your authentic voice. Be patient, don’t lock your knees, and keep a sense of play!”

Try these vocal exercises if you’re looking for warmup ideas.

Warm up your body

“Your body and voice are connected. Start with deep stretching to get rid of tension in your joints, sides, lower and upper back, neck, and shoulders—breathe deeply. To open up your back, hug your upper arms, then slowly roll down with your knees bent. Hang over for a count of 10, then slowly roll back up. Grip your hands together and hold them in front of you as you let your lower jaw drop and your body relax. Shake your arms and let your jaw shake along with them.”

Warm up your facial muscles

“Stretch every muscle in your beautiful face, tongue, and lips. Make silly faces. Exaggerate them. Let yourself yawn, noticing how your soft palate lifts. Touch your tongue to your chin, open your eyes wide, and raise your eyebrows.”

Warm up your vocal cords

“On an exhale, hum from your lowest comfortable pitch, gradually working your way up to your highest comfortable pitch, then go back down again. Do this a few times. Now, do the same thing using open vowel sounds: ‘oh,’ ‘ah,’ ‘ee,’ ‘eh,’ and ‘oo.’ As you repeat the exercise, you’ll notice that you can hit higher pitches without breathiness or scratchiness. You don’t want the sound to be focused on your vocal cords—find resonance in your chest, back, throat, and nasal cavity. Be aware of where you are in space. Practice sending the sounds to the back wall, then to an imaginary boom mic directly above your head. Allow yourself to explore and play with your range, resonance, and volume.”

Warm up your speech

“Now focus on words and text. Tongue twisters are a great way to exercise all of the vowel and consonant sounds. Start by repeating each of these simple phrases at least 10 times: ‘ship shape,’ ‘the lips, the teeth, the tip of the tongue,’ ‘Peggy Babcock,’ ‘minimal animal,’ ‘rural ridicule,’ and ‘kick and kill.’ Next, speak the lines from a scene or role you’re working on, or a poem. Focus on filling up the room with your words. Again, play with range, resonance, and volume. Be patient with this process—remember that it is about finding your own authentic voice. The world doesn’t need another Meryl Streep or James Earl Jones. It needs each of us with our own unique sounds.”

Page Clements is an actor, director, and Shakespeare instructor at T. Schreiber Studio in New York City.

Katherine Wessling
Katherine Wessling is an actor, writer, and storyteller. Her acting gigs have run the gamut from playing a photon in an improv-based devised theater piece to playing Regan in “King Lear.” She has appeared on various stages throughout New York, and in indie and feature films such as “About a Donkey” and “Game Time.”
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